Garner: Opinion

Editorial: School costs disconcerting

Only one year into the implementation of a school construction bond, Wake County school leaders are concerned about higher-than-expected costs.

That’s not exactly a surprise. Few things are as cheap as the people selling them to you say they are.

But that doesn’t change the fact that voters are likely to get less out of this bond than they expected. And, it should also be worrisome that the costs estimates are proving too low this early in the bond period. Inflation is sure to creep in over time and that could have a substantial impact on how far the school bond money goes. It stands to reason that the number crunchers who arrived at the $880 million bond cost would have calculated in some kind of estimate for inflation. After all, it’s as near a certain thing as death and taxes.

The higher-than-expected costs could have some serious consequences for students in the Garner area, where a new elementary school is on the list of projects to be completed.

That new elementary school is scheduled to be constructed later in the bond cycle, meaning it’s possible the money could run out before the new school gets built. Implementing bond plans generally is based on meeting the highest need first. That explains why the new South Garner High School was near the top of the list and is scheduled for completion this summer. When the money runs out, schools which are not immediate priorities get pushed back, often into the next round of school construction bonds once they have been passed.

School leaders shouldn’t be expected to nail a budget to the penny. That’s unreasonable. And, there are times when the economy takes a turn no one saw coming. But neither of those things happened with this budget. It’s unfortunate that Garner residents could pay a price for that in the future. It would be good, the next time a bond comes around, to hear school leaders explain which projects might get lopped off if the money doesn’t go as far as expected. It would be better if those same school folks simply did a more creditable job of applying real-world costs to something as important as making good on the promises they made to voters.